Travel Tales: Catching A Ride With The Easy Riders in Vietnam

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


There is a white, round scar, about the size of a dime, halfway up the inside of my calf. Like the tattoo on the bottom of my foot, I forget that it's there sometimes, but as soon as I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, it always makes me smile.

My travel buddy Michelle and I had just spent a long night on a sleeper train (if you ever get a chance to sleep in a bed on a train do it, it's the coolest feeling) from Hanoi to what we thought was Hoi An, Vietnam.

Little did we know that the train did not actually go all the way to Hoi An, but stopped about an hour outside of the city.

A little disoriented, and hungry, we walked out of the station at around 8 am hoping to come upon a bus that would take us to our final destination. But, other than a few sketchy looking cars, there weren’t any options. To make matters worse, the only food that had been available on the train was half-cooked, pretty sketchy looking chicken (which we obviously did not eat) and my blood sugar was well past low and I was headed dangerously into the hangry zone.

After buying some chocolate covered wafers from the station store, we pulled out our Lonely Planet travel guides to try and figure out our next move.

That was when Hal and Mr. T saw us.

Clad in leather and denim — with tattoos and flashy jewellery to match — these two looked like members of a hardcore biker gang. Extremely skeptical, we watched them out of the corner of our eye as they left their bikes parked by the curb (these were actual motorbikes, not the scooters that take over the streets of the country) and approached us.

We were two wide-eyed, disoriented-looking white girls, backpacks and guidebooks in full sight — we looked like the perfect targets and we knew it.

Expecting some sort of proposition or scam, I was pleasantly surprised when they walked up and introduced themselves as Easy Riders.

That was a name I was familiar with.

According to fellow travel buddies — and my trusty Lonely Planet — the Easy Riders started off in the early 2000s as a crew of about 30 freelance motorbike guides that offered reasonably priced excursions all over the country.

Though some were better than others in terms of customer service, I had heard no stories of any scams, kidnappings, or worse coming out of taking a ride with these bikers.

Clearly reading our skepticism, they pulled out dog-eared notebooks full of testimonials written by tourists that they had driven around. Written in all languages, in different writing, and from people all over the world, it was a very convincing artifact, and one that the Lonely Planet stated was a sign that they were legit members of the Easy Riders. (I know, I put a lot of faith in my travel books).

There is a certain sense of immortality that comes with travelling, and so after some consideration, and negotiation (we settled on the equivalent of $5 each for the hour ride) we entrusted ourselves to Hal and Mr. T, ready for whatever adventure our decision may bring.

They strapped our massive packs to the back of the bikes, supplied us with helmets (a rarity in Vietnam), and giving each other a nervous-excited glance, we jumped on the backs of the bikes. Hal and Mr. T said something to each other in Vietnamese, and then we were off!

It was a clear, humid day, and the breeze was a welcome relief from the already scorching sun. I leaned back on my bag, stared up at the sky and smiled.

We zoomed past China Beach (where the movie Good Morning Vietnam was filmed), and through small towns where the children jumped up from their games to wave at us.

China Beach, Vietnam

I threw my arms up in the air and wondered how I would ever go back to normal taxis in my North American life — and how could I ever explain the feeling of freedom that comes from careening down an ocean road on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam?!

It was while getting off the bike in Hoi An that I received my scar — a shoestring-travel-battle-wound and a lesson on why motorcyclists wear long pants — by pressing my leg against the tailpipe for a mere second.

It hurt like hell but couldn’t dull the feeling that came with an exhilarating new experience, and the beginning of a new adventure! 

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Destination Budapest: What You Need To See and Do While Exploring Hungary's Capital City

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is a fascinating city. It's perched right on the border between Western and Eastern Europe and with that comes a complicated history. Until the late 1980s Hungry was communist, not moving to a democratic government until 1989. There is also a heavy influence from ancient Roman and Turkish occupation that has led to an interesting mix of architecture, culture, and historic spots to visit.  

Orientation 

Budapest is actually a combination of two historic cities Buda and Pest (no, this is not a joke). The two cities were separated by the Danube river and were combined in 1873. Buda is the hilly area west of the river which is home to Castle Hill, elaborate medieval buildings, and upscale neighbourhoods. Pest, located on the eastern side, is where you will find the major sights, nightlife, restaurants, markets, and places to stay. 

The city is divided into 23 districts, most of the major sights are located in Central Buda and Central Pest. 

Currency

Though the country is a member of the European Union, they don't use the Euro but the Hungarian forint (HUF). Find the current exchange rates here, but this is where they were at when this post was written:

1 CAD = 219 HUF
1 USD = 293 HUF
1 EUR = 310 HUF
1 GBP = 358 HUF
1 AUD = 223 HUF

Getting Around

The city is extremely walkable, you can get to most sights by foot — especially if you stay central. It also has an easy-to-navigate metro system. 

What To Do 

Vajdahunyad Castle
The fairy-tale towers of this castle overlook an artificial lake that is used for boating in the summer, and in the winter is transformed into one of the most impressive outdoor skating rinks in Europe!

The structure itself is made up of two Transylvanian castles (medieval Hungary included the country of Transylvania — now Romania) and a Renaissance courtyard where regular concerts are held in the summer. 

It's free to visit, beautiful, and definitely worth wondering through. It is also perched on the edge of a public park that is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or rest your feet after a day of exploring! 

Coffee Houses
In Central Europe, coffee houses are the social club, home, and haven for journalists, writers, lawyers, and everyone in between. Oozing charm, this is one of the best spots to spend an afternoon people watching and soaking up local culture while sipping on a frothy cappuccino or a cold beer. 

St. Stephen's Basilica 
I love visiting churches in Europe (though I am not religious), because they are usually perfectly preserved examples of the city's history of art and architecture. 

The stunning St. Stephen's Basilica does not disappoint. 

Located in a huge square in Pest, the church took over 50 years to build and has a dome that is 96 m high (approx. 315ft)! The interior of the colossal basilica features frescos, carvings, and chapels in impeccable condition that are absolutely beautiful.

It is free to visit the church, but if you want to check out the treasury or dome, there is a small fee. 

Markets 
There is no better spot to find authentic souvenirs and food than at a local market, and Budapest boasts a plethora of them including some large covered markets. Beautiful fabrics, wooly hats, and delicious treats can be found in abundance. 

If you only make it to one, the Nagycsarnok or Great Market, is so big you could get lost in it! The first floor is packed with traditional food, and the top floor is where you will find folk costumes, dolls, scarves, embroidery, hunting knives, and more! 

Terror House
The former headquarters of the country's dreaded secret police, this eerie looking building is a disturbing monument to those who suffered the terror that afflicted the country during and after World War II.

The photos plastered on the wall showing the faces of former prisoners (pictured) is incredibly moving, and prepare yourself before you visit the underground torture chambers, they are pretty graphic.

A full price ticket is 2000 HUF. 

Jewish Quarter
Not much remains of this historic quarter that was hit hard during WWII. It is home to a holocaust museum located in the Great Synagogue, but my favourite part of my visit to this quarter was located behind the synagogue. 

A stunning Holocaust Memorial sculpture (pictured above) in the shape of a weeping willow was funded by actor Tony Curtis and is dedicated to those who perished in the death camps. 

Baths
There are two famous thermal spas to visit in the city.

Located in Buda, the most famous is the Gallert Baths with majestic domes, Turkish tiles, and beautiful Art Nouveau architecture that you can enjoy while soaking in the warm waters (both indoors and outdoors) and relaxing in the stunning saunas. It is like soaking in a bit of history! 

Admission is 5300 HUF on weekdays and 5500 HUF on weekends.

The Szechenyi Baths were built in 1908 and are located in Pest in the City Park. There is a giant outdoor pool that is open year-round and feels like you are a guest at some opulent hotel, as well as indoors thermal baths, saunas, and massage areas. 

Admission is dependent on the time of year and time of day you are visiting. They can be pre-bought online. Visit the website for details

Art Museums
There are three major art museums that I would recommend. 

First up, the Szepmuveszeti Museum, or Museum of Fine Arts, is packed full of art from all over the world, including a large collection of pieces by the painter El Greco, a selection of Egyptian art and artifacts, and some incredible classical sculpture. 

NOTE: The Museum of Fine Arts Budapest is closed for renovation of the building until the spring of 2018. A selection of 50-60 artworks from the Museum’s collections will be on show in the Hungarian National Gallery (in Buda Castle, building C). The artworks of the collections can be browsed on the gallery's website in the meantime.

Across the street is the Muczarnok, a huge contemporary art gallery that displays works by both national and international artists. Admission is 400 HUF. 

The building housing the Museum of Applied Arts is absolutely incredible. It is a prime example of the Hungarian Art Nouveau movement (built between 1893 and 1896) with its elaborate tilled roofs and sweeping lobby (pictured above). Exabitions include furniture, architecture, treasures, and more. Admission for all exhibits is  3,500 HUF.

Kerepesi Cemetery
I know that visiting a cemetery might seem strange, but like the famous cemeteries in other parts of Europe, this one is a mix between park and sculpture gallery. There are approximately 3,000 gravestones and mausoleums, and there are free maps at the entrance to help you navigate. It's a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. 

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You Don't Have To Quit Your Job To Travel The World!

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


You don't need months of spare time and huge amounts of money to see the world. Really, I promise! 

I've been to 27 countries and 4 continents (and counting!), and TRUST ME, I am definitely NOT made of money or time.

There are lots of different ways to travel long term, or short term, while on a budget and still have unforgettable experiences. You don't need a trust fund to go to Europe and you don't need three months to enjoy an adventure in Cambodia — really!

But international travel is expensive! Isn't an all-inclusive in a sun-destination just easier, and a better deal?

You've got me at easier.

I can't deny that clicking "purchase" on an all-inclusive package is easy. And even I have done one before. But I found that I got bored staying within the walls of the resort, I never ate or drank enough to really make it worthwhile, and the paid excursions were kind of boring and forced me to spend time at gift shops that I could have been spending at a beach or exploring a local hot spot on my own. 

If that sounds like you, putting in a little extra effort to plan your own trip might just be right up your ally! 

Your largest expense (especially for those of us travelling from North America) is the flight. But, thanks to airlines now offering regular deals to major cities all over the world, and discount travel websites, you can now find incredibly cheap flights as long as you plan ahead. I've found flights to Europe for $450 over the last year — an incredible deal!

Also remember that once you get to Europe you can use cheap airlines to get around to other countries. For example, if I want to go to Portugal, I will look for a flight to London or Paris, as I know that are often less expensive. Then I will book a RyanAir or EasyJet flight separately to save hundreds of dollars. These discount airlines offer one-way flights for as little as $20 sometimes! Always look at the option of booking segments of your flight separately. Sometimes it can work out to be a lot cheaper!

Once you've got your flight sorted out, like at home, you could pay hundreds of dollars for food, fun, and a bed OR you can choose the more budget friendly options.

You probably aren't going to be spending a ton of time actually in your room. You will be out seeing the sights, trying out local food, and exploring. Do you really need a giant room with a view? Or will a more budget-friendly option work?

When it comes to fun, or seeing the sights, remember that a lot of museums and cultural attractions are free or affordable to make them accessible to everyone. And sometimes the best way to see a city is to just walk around it — that doesn't cost a cent!

When it comes to food, costs can add up if you eat out for every meal. But, if you self-cater from grocery stores, eat from street stalls, or check out local bakeries and grab-and-go spots, it doesn't have to cost a lot! If you want to eat out one meal a day, lunch tends to be cheaper, but just as good, than dinner at restaurants. 

Let me put it this way — if you are willing to spend $1,700-$2,500 for seven nights at an all-inclusive, why not spend $700 on flights to Portugal, $40 a night at a B&B, and the rest on having the adventure of a lifetime?

But how do you solve the time thing? What if you only have one week?

You do not need to have two months at your disposal to go to Europe, Asia, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter.

On one of my more recent trips, I travelled to Sweden for just seven days. I flew through Iceland, but because there was a minimal layover, my travel time was actually shorter than it would have been if I had taken a flight down to Mexico, which would involve longer layovers!

Yes, the flight itself might be a few hours longer then if you were to head somewhere closer to home, but the reward will be spending a week somewhere totally new that will give you a new perspective. I find that the more I am shoved out of my comfort zone, the longer it feels like I'm away. 

What about jet lag?

Yes, jet lag can interfere a bit in long-distance adventures, but there are ways to avoid and minimize symptoms.

Also remember that when you are travelling the only demand on you is to have an amazing time, relax, and soak in new cultures. Feeling a little tired or dehydrated is completely manageable under those circumstances! 

Booking.com

Here are some other ways that you can travel outside of an all-inclusive or set vacation:

1. Voluntourism
The first international trip I took was to build houses in Honduras. I got there through fundraised dollars and spent just a week (that felt more like a month because it took me so far out of my comfort zone) being exposed to a whole new world.

Volunteer organizations will often cover the costs or your room and board (and sometimes even your fight) while you are giving your time to their cause.

Here are some websites that have some great volunteer abroad information:
Go Abroad
Projects Abroad
Volunteer Canada
Go Overseas
United Planet: Construction Projects

2. Take A Class
I attended a semester of University in Italy and the tuition was the same as it would have been at home! The cost of room and board was actually cheaper than it would have been at home, making the only real additional large expense the flight there. After the semester ended, I took advantage of already being in Europe and stayed for an additional three months. 

You can join a dig, take a language course, or even learn a local handicraft. Look into class exchanges or international programs at your local university. You don't have to be a young student to attended one of these programs either! They are often offered to anyone, any age, whether you are attending the university or not!

Here are some examples: 
Archaeological Fieldwork
Languages Abroad
Art Classes in Greece

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Train Travel 101: Here's Why You Should Travel Through Europe By Train + All The Train Travel Planning Resources You Need

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


I love the traveling part of traveling, and — if you have the time — there is nothing better than train travel. Europe has an incredible network of trains criss-crossing countries, passing through incredible scenery, and giving you access to off-the-beaten-path towns and villages. 

I know what you're thinking — why travel by train when I can get a quick, inexpensive flight on Ryanair, EasyJet, or some other discount airline? Hear me out. If you factor in the time it takes you to get to the airport (discount airlines are usually flying out of secondary airports further away from the city centres), plus the time it takes to check-in and wait for your flight, and then the time it takes to get to the centre of your destination city, is traveling by train really that much longer? Plus, don't forget to factor in additional costs that come with a flight like checked baggage and over-priced snacks to eat on the flight. 

On a European train trip, you can take your own food and water, and the size of your bag doesn't really matter. There are no security lines to get through, and you can wander around the train from the minute it leaves until your destination — no need to fasten your seatbelt! Plus, trains will take you directly to the city centre station, or to a station that will connect you to a metro or city bus that will take you where you want to go. 

If you are traveling by train in the off-season, I wouldn't recommend a Eurail or Interrail pass, as you can usually find day-of train tickets that will end up being cheaper (see the resources below for more information).

If you are traveling during the high-season (May-August) or to multiple countries in a short period of time however, a Eurail pass or Interrail Pass is definitely a good choice. The travel pass requirements and specifications for both can get a bit complicated, so make sure you read through all the info on their websites before purchasing. 

Here are some changes to the Eurail passes in 2017, that is making it even easier to travel by rail:

  • Youth Eurail Passes (which are up to 35% less expensive than the adult pass) are now available to those that are under 28! (They used to be only for those that were under 26)
  • You have up to 11 months to use your pass from the time of purchase (it used to expire after six).
  • The Eurail passes are a lot more flexible than they have been in the past, making it easier to jump on and off the train.

There are three Eurail passes that vary in price depending on what European countries you are planning to travel to by train: Global Pass, Select Pass, and One Country Pass. In my experience, the One Country Pass does not always save you money, as some countries have really inexpensive tickets day-of (even in the high-season).

Do some research before you buy any pass by checking out average train ticket prices online in the countries you are planning on visiting — most rail companies have an English version of their website for tourists. 

  • AustriaOBB has great prices for train tickets in Austria and also offers night trains to other parts of Europe. 
  • BelgiumBelgium Rail has a really clear website that breaks down the different types of train tickets helping you pick the best one for your train travel through Belgium.
  • Czech RepublicCD has lots of great train ticket options for the Czech Republic including all-day tickets in Prague and trains with cinemas for children.
  • Denmark — DSB has ticket information and planning tools for Denmark's train routes.
  • Finland — VR not only helps you plan your train travel in Finland but train trips to Russia too!
  • FranceSNCF is where you can reserve train tickets and geolocate your train anywhere in France!
  • GermanyDeutsche Bahn is a great site for trip planning and offers train tickets in Germany starting at just 19 Euros!
  • GreeceRail CC contains all the info you need to plan your train travel in Greece, including night trains and special offers.
  • HungaryMAV is a simple website, but you can still find train ticket prices for travel in Hungary.
  • Ireland — Irish Rail has information on Ireland's train schedules, ticket prices, and more.
  • Italy — Italia Rail is a great website for booking train travel in Italy with quick route options from major cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice. 
  • NetherlandsNS has everything you need to easily book tickets for train travel in the Netherlands.
  • NorwayNSB is where you can purchase tickets for the train and find out about any delays
  • PortugalCamboios De Portugal has train ticket info and info on how to get to major events.
  • Spain Renfe is the best website to find cheap train tickets for traveling in Spain.
  • SwedenSJ helps you discover Sweden by train and even has a handy budget calculator!
  • UK — National Rail Enquiries has a great site that is easy to use and purchase train tickets on. 

Other resources worth checking out while planning your train travels through Europe include Rail Europe, a one-stop-shop, that combines maps, schedules, and fares from different train companies across Europe. And, if you are looking to hit as many countries as you can, Interrail offers a 30 countries rail pass that allows you to easily explore all of Europe by train. 

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Travel Trends: Book A Layover Instead of Trying to Avoid One

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Avoiding long travel layovers and international stopovers when travelling long distances by air used to be the goal when it came to booking tickets. But, thanks to some outstanding recent campaigns by airlines like Icelandair (I know that I can't go a day without seeing gorgeous photos of Iceland's blue lagoon popping into my newsfeed), a long layover is not only something not to avoid, but an air travel trend that is now being sought out — it's two vacations in one! And, multiple airlines are getting on board. 

Icelandair 
The most well known stopover deal, Icelandair's long layover is ideal for those traveling between North America and Europe. You can stopover in the country for multiple nights with no additional fee, and they will even arrange accommodation and tours for you (for an additional charge) if you wish as well! 

Emirates
You can pre-book a stopover in Dubai with Emirates, but will need the help of a travel rep (see the info on their website), as they will have to apply for your no-fee visa. This stopover does come with an additional charge, but it can be as low as around $60. 

Singapore Airlines
This airline offers a multi-destination booking option that allows for a long layover in Singapore with no additional charge. For a small fee you can pre-book transfers and a hotel room with your flight so the stopover is as easy as possible! 

Thai Airways
This airline offers free travel stopovers in Bangkok(see my post on 22 Things to Love About Thailand if you are wondering what to do in Thailand!), a perk that is advertised to Aussies travelling to Asia or Europe and back. The airline also runs regular promotions for a free night's stay during your stopover as well.

TapPortugal
With this discount airline in Portugal you can book a layover in the country for up to three nights for no extra charge! They also have a comprehensive website to support this campaign that includes ideas on what to do during your layover, an app, and hotel deals. 

Air Canada
If you are travelling to Europe or Asia from the United States, you can take advantage of Air Canada's Toronto Stopover Program that allows you to spend up to seven days on an long layover in the city for no extra charge. 

Qatar Airways
Well not an overnight stopover, Qatar Airways will give you a free tour of four major landmarks in Doha, including the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, if you have a long layover. 

I don't know about you, but these layover options are definitely going to have me rethinking the way I book my travel in the future. I can't imagine anything better than breaking up a long travel day with a new culture and a bonus adventure! 

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13 Travel Quotes That Will Inspire You To Pack Your Bags

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


"Surely of all the wonders in the world, the horizon is the greatest."
—Freya Stark

"We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, we travel to be lost."
—Ray Bradbury

"Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul."
—Jamie Lyn Beatty

"People don’t take trips, trips take people."
—John Steinbeck

"The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself."
—Wallace Stevens

"Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere."
—Isabelle Eberhardt

"I travel because I’d rather look back at my life saying ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of ‘If only I had…’"
—Florine Bos

Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life (and travel) leaves marks on you.
— Anthony Bourdain

"Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go, this is my station.’"
—Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

"The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends."
—Shirley MacLaine

"One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are."
—Edith Wharton

"Solo travel not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, it also pushes you out of the zone of others’ expectations."
—Suzy Strutner

"I travel because seeing photos in books and brochures wasn’t good enough for me. To be there, that was everything."
—Wiremu Ratcliffe

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Your Ultimate Guide To The Best Places To Travel In 2017

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Are you wondering where to go on holiday this year? Need some insight into the top travel destinations? You've come to the right place!

Everyone seems to put out a "Best Spots to Travel" list every year, so to make things easy for you, I've put together a master list with the Top 3 spots from the following lists: National Geographic's "Best Trips 2017", Travel and Leisure's "Best Places to Travel in 2017", Fodor's "No List 2017", Lonely Planet's "Best In Travel 2017", and Conde Nast's "Best Places to Travel in 2017." 

You'll also find my pick for a dream destination (for those of you willing to spend a few extra dollars for an outstanding experience!) at the end. 

National Geographic

The authority on culture, travel and adventure, Nat Geo has divided their "Best Trips 2017" list into three sections: Nature, Cities and Culture. 

NATURE

1. The Island of Kauai, USA
This stunning island is one of the Hawaiian islands, and one that is more sparsely visited than the rest. You will find lush jungles, stunning waterfalls, and fantastic hikes. There's a reason that more than 60 movies have been filmed there (including Jurassic Park)! 

2. Finland
Northern lights that dance through the night sky, stunning natural views, rocky beaches, winter sports, and reindeer — what more could you want in an outdoor adventure! 

3. Baja California, Mexico
Underwater adventures are what you travel here for — the marine life is what scuba divers' dreams are made of! 

CITIES

1. Marrakech, Morocco
One of my absolute favourite cities, Marrakech will transport you to a world where snakes are charmed in the main square, the call to prayer is beautifully hypnotizing, the food has flavours you have never tried before, and even colours seem more vibrant. Museums, markets, art, culture and more — exactly my kind of urban adventure! 

2. Madrid, Spain
The country's vibrant capital, Madrid is full of everything you would want in a city — great food, great nightlife, an abundance of culture, and an international feel. 

3. Anchorage, United States
This pick could fall under nature as much as it falls under cities, as anywhere up north seems to be defined by the harsh, yet stunning, environment that it is located in. And outdoor activities are one of the main reasons to visit — surfing, hiking, glacier walks, the list goes on and on. 

The narrow streets in the Marrakech Medina

CULTURE

1. Malta
A small island in the Mediterranean sea, this spot has been on my personal travel list for a few years now. There have been some fascinating archaeological findings made in recent years, and who doesn't love a trip that involves blue skies and a beach?!

2. Papua New Guinea
Nat Geo's description of this spot has me sold! "Located in the South Pacific north of Australia, PNG includes the eastern half of the world’s second biggest island, New Guinea, and about 600 small islands. For indigenous cultures in secluded villages, life pretty much goes on as it has for centuries." 

3. Chengdu, China
A UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy, this city has some incredible restaurants serving traditional cuisine and some incredible World Heritage Sites as well. 

Travel + Leisure

The staff of this fantastic travel publication came up with 50 great places to visit in 2017. Here are the top three! 

1. Angra dos Reis, Brazil
Located between Sao Paulo and Rio, this is where the Brazilians escape to in the summer time when the beaches in the larger cities get too crowded. 

2. Belfast, Northern Ireland
Hip cafes, lounges, restaurants, and art venues are making this beautiful city an attractive destination for those looking for an urban adventure. 

3. Belgrade, Serbia
Not a typical destination (at least not for those of us in North America), according to T+L, this city has a quickly growing food scene and "the biggest draw is the growing craft-beer scene (the city has 37 breweries)."

Food being prepared at a street stall in Hong Kong

Fodor

Fodor does something a bit different, they put out a "No List" and tell you the spots that you should stay away from (due to an outbreak, war, etc.) and where to go instead. 

1. Avoid Dubai (its under construction in preparation for Dubai Expo 2020) and go to Hong Kong — one of my favourite cities — instead! 

2. Skip the Great Barrier Reef (it's under threat, give it some time to recover!) and head to the small and stunning Atauro Island instead. 

3. Miami Beach is one to miss if you are concerned about Zika, but Key West is the perfect alternative if you are looking to soak in some Florida sunshine. 

Lonely Planet

My fave travel guide company has multiple must-see lists for 2017 (make sure to check them all out!), but — so this post doesn't go on forever — I am only going to list their picks for the top three countries to visit. 

1. Canada
I have to admit that I am very excited that my home country topped this list! Canada has so much to offer nature loves, urbanites, culture, buffs, foodies and everyone in between. Plus, it's our 150th birthday in 2017, meaning that there are going to be major events and celebrations going on throughout the year. 

2. Colombia
I know, this seems a bit strange due to the history of drugs and violence that this country is known for, but according to LP, that violence has subsided and what has been left behind is incredible architecture, great food, and a really interesting culture. 

3. Finland (our first repeat spot!)
Also on Nat Geo's list above, Finland made the LP list because it is celebrating it's 100the year of independence in 2017, and will "also [play] host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships this year."

The Canadian Rocky Mountains in Jasper, Alberta

Conde Nast Traveler

Conde Nast has 17, editor-endorsed picks on their "Best Places to Travel in 2017" list. 

1. Canada (our second repeat spot!)
See the info above.

2. The American Midwest
According to CN, they want to explore the cities and talk to the people that voted for Trump in order to find out who they are, what they believe in, and how they live. Could make for an interesting adventure! 

3. Cuba (beyond Havana)
Since the island country has been opened up to Americans, tourism is booming. Now's your chance to get there before it becomes too commercialized! 

My Dream Destination

Last year I picked a resort in the middle of the ocean as my dream destination, but this year I'm sending you inland to Chiang Mai, Thailand — more specifically, the Four Seasons Resort

This stunning (and very expensive — rooms start at around $1,300/night) resort is nestled amongst rice paddies and the jungle with rooms that look like treehouses, beautiful pools, and sunset yoga... just watch the video below, you'll see what I mean. 

Is there anything that you would add to the list? A great spot or hidden gem that you think would be the perfect destination in 2017? Let me know in the comments below! 

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